2010 Monarch Butterflies

See Jamie's pictures from the butterflies appearance at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer here.

The construction process...  We started in early January with Heather and her husband Paul working out a design & prototype that would be structurally sound and relatively inexpensive.
They came up with a design that used PVC pipe and plumbing fittings to create the frame of each wing.Once the frames were built, we used old airplane fabric (for super cubs), ultralight fabric, and drapery sheer from the fabric store to cover the wings (following much the same process as covering airplane surfaces).Once the wing shape is cut with a few inches of excess all around, we glued the fabric to the pipe with industrial airplane fabric glue (Paul and Heather happened to have this laying around because they work on airplanes).Folding the fabric around the glued frame.Once glue dried, we could begin tightening (shrinking) the fabric using hot irons.  We had to be careful not to over-shrink or the tightened fabric would start to bow the frame.
Once the fabric was shrunk and we had good flat surfaces, we trimmed the excess fabric with razor blades....while Heather's son Coal supervised.One finished wing.
We tested the height of the wings in the prototype-stage, to make sure we could ski with them attached to our backs....then the painting process began.  We just used latex house paint, with several layers being needed to saturate the fabric.  Those wings made of lighter material didn't soak up the paint as well (they acted more like a silk screen), while the heavier scrap supercub fabric performed the best.
Heather made a template for the detail-painting out of butcher paper, which we used to draw out the pattern on all the wings before painting.

Once most of the wings were painted we borrowed 10  frame packs and began experimenting with attaching the wings to the frames.  In the end, we used a two hose clamps per side, plus some large zipties for good measure.

Karen and Jen made all the headdresses for the team: a black baklava with alumininm-foil-covered styrafoam eyes and twisted wood with black pipe-cleaners wrapped all-around for the antennae.
We tested skiing with the wings, and after alot of the wings shifting back and forth, we decided we need a some kind of cross-brace system....back to Heather's husband (our consultant structural engineer), who suggested using some of our scrap PVC to create cross-bars across the back of the wing (not shown here).

Race Day!
Other cool group costumes:
We hauled all the wings in the BreadMan's truck.

Running of the Reindeer
A few weeks later we recycled the butterfly costumes to do the Running of the Reindeer!


  1. I've just had this article drawn to my attention and will be sharing it with people in New Zealand, some of whom ask for instructions how to make butterfly wings to wear. An awesome story - thanks for the steps.

  2. Thank you for sharing this! I've been searching for days trying to find a way to make wings of this size. The search was well worth it because construction is now under way. Thanks again!